Yesterday Mathew Ingram published an interview with Jessica Lessin, former reporter at the Wall Street Journal and now founder of The Information, a tech publication which she started in 2013 shortly after leaving the Journal. The Information has found success with its subscription driven revenue model, in fact the site is currently cash flow positive, which charges subscribers $399/year for access to its content.

As I read through the interview, there were a couple of points made by Lessin that really struck a cord with me and what I’m trying to do at KYA to help digital publishers.

“I think in general, media companies have lost sight of building relationships with their end users that will bring them in directly, as opposed to just posting links on social networks and hoping people will click.”

I have always been a huge proponent of owning your own space on the web. Every social network or third-party platform you decide to take part in should be an extension of your brand and your “main hub” (your website)–ultimately, the key to success is to have people want to seek you out. I know–easier said than done, but it needs to be done, it really does.

Jessica Lessin, The Information.
Jessica Lessin, The Information.

As Ms. Lessin points out, many media companies have lost sight of perhaps the most crucial element of audience building: relationships. Instead of building relationships, a lot of time and money is being spent on trying to lure in eyeballs to eek out as many advertising dollars as possible. It’s a really unfortunate situation that has turned into an extremely hard to break [vicious] cycle due to the fact these media companies are so reliant on the ad dollars to stay afloat.

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Ideally, media companies should be spending that time and money on better understanding their audience. They should be looking to build relationships with their audience(s) by creating content utilizing amazing storytelling and reporting coupled with powerful audience insights and data including engagement, interests, and demographics. It’s simple: by knowing your audience you can better serve them, building loyalty in the process, meaning you won’t have to fight for attention in their news feed or Twitter feed because you will already have it.

“I’m worried that media companies are spending way too much time and energy on those platforms. It’s just like back in the day when Google News first came out, and publishers were falling all over themselves trying to get preferential treatment from Google.”

It was Google News, now it’s Facebook, then it will be Snapchat, and after that? Who knows. The point is this story is repeating itself, but it seems like not everyone has learned from the past. Time spent on trying to “figure out” Facebook to make it work for you is only a temporary fix–one that lasts until Facebook changes the algorithm again or something else captures people’s attention. Regardless, constantly jumping from one bandwagon to the next is not a sound approach, but I can tell you what is: making people want to come to you.


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